What If There Was No Resurrection? 1 Corinthians 16:12-20

February 18, 2022
Rex Trogdon

Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day are two days that rarely come together on the calendar. It happened in 1956 and again in 2018. There is an appropriate verse in the Bible for such a rare occasion: “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12). It has the sound of an April Fool’s saying, doesn’t it —There is no resurrection?

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. That’s why they were sad, you see. There must have been some at Corinth who dismissed life after death as well. Paul was clear in his answer to those who were foolish enough to think that this life is all there is. He laid out seven What If’s to consider (vv. 12-19):

What If —there was no resurrection?

Then, Christ is not risen (v.13).

We are reading this statement in the resurrection chapter of our Bible, where the gospel itself includes the accounts of many eyewitnesses. He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve, by over five hundred brethren at once, by James, then by all the apostles. Even the apostle Paul himself saw the resurrected Christ on the Damascus Road (1 Cor. 15:1-11). Some of those eyewitnesses were still alive at that time of his writing and anyone who doubted the truth of the resurrection could have asked them personally. All these eyewitnesses must have seen a false vision, or their testimony is fabricated, and we do not have a living Savior. That is, if there is no resurrection.

Then, our preaching is empty (v.14a).

The preaching, or proclamation would be in vain having no purpose. There’s no doubt that the gospel message of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 lends itself easily to preaching a powerful three-point message:

Point #1 – Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
Point #2 – That He was buried
Point #3 – He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures

But our preaching has now become vain. It is lacking the power of the message without the third point. In other words, there would be no point to a two-point message, “Christ died and was buried.” That’s it; if there is no resurrection.

Then, our faith is also empty (v.14b).

We came to Christ with empty lives. He filled us with a faith that is full to overflowing. Now we hear that the message we believed was empty, in vain and that means that our faith is also empty, in vain. What a sad combination, empty faith in an empty message. It’s starting to sound like the preacher of Ecclesiastes 1:1, “‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’” Solomon was right. That is, if there is no resurrection.

Then, we are found to be false witnesses of God (vs.15-16).

The Lord had called His disciples and commissioned them in Acts 1:8 saying, “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” They had gotten off to a great start and were working on phase four of the Great Commission —to the end of the earth. Only to find out that they were false witnesses.

Besides this, it is even worse because they perjured themselves against God. They said that He said that Christ was raised. But, that would have been false if Christ has not been raised up. Because if the dead are not raised then God did not raise up Christ. It’s all false, and those who claim to be His witnesses, are false witnesses of eternal consequence. That is, if there is no resurrection.

Then, we are still in our sins (v.17).

This becomes more serious as we consider the sin question. The prophets foretold that the Messiah would come and take away our sins (Isa. 53), cast them as far as the east is from west (Ps. 103), and that we would never see our sins again (Isa. 44). But now we find that this did not happen. That the plan that Jesus was delivered up because of our offenses and that He would be raised because of our justification (Rom. 4:25) was incomplete.

The resurrection was to be the amen to the atoning value of the blood of Christ. It is like we prayed, but there was no answer, no amen at the end. This punctuates the What If? question mark instead of an exclamation point. Our declaration, He is risen indeed! has been replaced with the question, is He indeed risen? And the big question remains, what will we do with our sins? That is, if there is no resurrection.

Then, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished (v.18).

Our hearts are gripped with the inconsolable sorrow that our loved ones in Christ, who we thought had gone on before us, had nowhere to go. They had responded to the warning, repent or perish and made the choice to receive Christ to be saved. The very reason they had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ was so that they would not perish. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). To tell us that after trusting in the Savior that they have perished does more than disappoint; it has turned our hopeful sorrow into a hopeless gloom. To think that those who have died, perish the thought, are in hell today is a grim, unbearable reality. That is, if there is no resurrection.

Then, we are of all men the most pitiable (v.19).

We who turned our backs on this present world must now face the fact that we were wrong. Our decision to live for what is unseen and eternal was worse than a pipe dream; it has become a nightmare. Our investment that was to yield eternal dividends of thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold have returned to us zero, zilch, nada! Our confident assertions to the world around us that brought us ridicule and mocking have given cause to their disdain and disregard. We were fools for Christ, the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things (1 Cor. 4:10-13). For what? For nothing. That is, if there is no resurrection. 

Yes, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day rarely come together on the calendar, but we meet people every day that do not believe He is risen. To those who say, “There is no resurrection” the Bible declares that “Christ is risen.” No ifs, ands, or buts about it! Well, there is one but: “But now Christ is risen from the dead.” (1 Cor. 15:20a)

Because He is risen, we are assured of:

  • His Person – He is declared to be the Son of God…by the resurrection (Rom. 1:3-4)
  • His Power – He had power to lay down His life and He had power to take it again (John 10:18)
  • Christ the Lord is risen indeed… No foolin’!